Air pollution: it’s not just carbon dioxide
Air pollution, both outdoors and indoors, is a fact of modern life. Although outdoor air pollution has decreased considerably since the 1970s, due to a combination of technological advances and strict legislation, it is still a problem in some areas of the UK and can still affect health, particularly that of older people or people with ill-health.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is what many might initially associate with “air pollution” but it is not an air pollutant of direct concern to health. Other pollutants generated by man’s activities, such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3) and particles are of much greater relevance to health.
The majority of outdoor air pollution is a consequence of our reliance on motorised transport and the combustion (burning) of fossil fuels to generate heat and electricity, and is generally worse in cities and industrial areas than in rural areas (with the exception of ozone). Historically, air pollution was a problem, which arose from the burning of sulphur-containing fossil fuels, such as coal in homes, factories and power plants. Burning such fuels produced large amounts of SO2 and smoke (sooty particles) which had a major impact on air urban quality.
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